I was recently chatting with a fellow D&D 5e player (Hey, Tyler!), and he was asking me all sorts of questions about DMing–time demands (in terms of preparation), the need to improvise, coming up with new material, etc. He wants to be a DM, but he was understandably hesitant to jump in. I told him that he could always go with the pre-generated content books that have been released for 5e–Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Elemental Evil, and the most recent book, Out of the Abyss. He told me he was looking for shorter adventures similar to the old D&D/AD&D modules that were so popular in the ’80s and ’90s but they seemed to be in short supply. WHAT?! Short supply? Not true!
Even if that were true (and it isn’t), the recent announcement by Wizards of the Coast to open up the Dungeon Masters Guild to user submissions to sell should pretty much guarantee that novice and veteran DMs will have a never-ending supply of ready-made adventures. There’s a lot of D&D Next stuff on there right now… but just give it a few weeks. Probably days.
But even without the Dungeon Masters Guild opening up its doors to those wishing to self-publish their adventures and other 5e-related game material, there’s still PLENTY of quality adventures out there for DMs who may be short on time, not feeling all that creative, or unsure about their ability to keep things moving without lots of help.With that said, I have three companies/products to recommend to any novice DMs out there who are looking for something to run that provides just about all you need for a fun night. I’m certain these are not the only independent 5e content publishers out there, so please feel free to share any others that you’ve found in the comment section.
Full disclosure–I’ve written some 5e content for Goodman-Games, but this was well after my discovery of their new Fifth Edition Fantasy series. Currently, the first five adventures are available with #6 and #7 on the way soon. (FEF #7 contains 12 two-page mini-adventures–five of them are mine!)
I’ve reviewed a number of the adventures already–you can find my review of Glitterdoom (FEF #1, Level 3 adventure) and The Fey Sisters’ Fate (FEF #2, Level 1 adventure) here. And my reviews of The Pillars of Pelagia (FEF #3, Level 3 adventure) and War-Lock (FEF #4, Level 5 adventure) are here. And this reminds me that I really do need to review FEF #5, Into the Dragon’s Maw.
Other than the first two Fifth Edition Fantasy books, Goodman-Games ran successful Kickstarter campaigns for most of the others, and I just received an update that FEF #6 and FEF #7 are at the printers right now.
These adventures are each $9.99 and are of excellent print quality with covers that are glossy and thick. The adventures are well-developed and offer up some truly unique adventures, new races, and plenty of surprises.
Just like the D&D modules of my youth, The Folio consists of six modules that make up The Roslof Campaign. These modules are available in print or PDF formats, but it’s the print versions that have really amazed me. High-quality cover artwork and printing, a well-designed Roslof Keep and surrounding areas to call home, and, of course, a dungeon that goes deeper and deeper with each new module released. Each module contains excellent maps and two booklets–one is a sandbox document that contains backstory and sights to see as the coverage around Roslof Keep expands, and the other is the pre-packaged adventure that is ready for the DM to run.
Currently, The Folio #5 and #6 are at the printers and waiting to be delivered to Kickstarter backers, and I cannot wait to see how they finish up this storyline. You can read my review of The Folio #1 and the included adventure ROS1: Beneath Roslof Keep here. For more details about the entire series, visit the official website here.
I was too late to get in on the Dungeons on Demand 1 Kickstarter campaign. Fortunately, when the DoD 2 Kickstarter went live, I was able to back at a level that allowed me to grab the DoD 1 content. In addition to four adventures per Kickstarter campaign (plus bonus adventures if certain financial stretch goals are met), DoD typically provides additional PDF documents containing bonus material such as additional magic items or variations of popular monsters. All of the files are stored digitally on the RPGNow.com service, so buy them once and you’ll always have access to your library. Currently, DoD 3 has just over 20 days left to raise funds, and they’ve already met their base funding level… now it’s all about stretch goals.
What’s interesting about the DoD series is how the adventures have progressed in terms of character levels. DoD 1 contained four adventures, one each for characters of level 1, 4, 8, and 12. DoD 2 also contained four adventures, but these were for characters of level 2, 5, 9, and 13. (Extra bonus content was also created for DoD 2 when stretch goals were met.) DoD 3 will be offering up four more adventures for… you guessed it… character levels 3, 6, 10, and 14. Even better, because all of this is digital content, backers who missed DoD 1 and/or DoD 2 can easily add on that content to their backer level and get immediate access to it when the Kickstarter ends.
These adventures are great, too. I’ve read through all of the DoD 1 and DoD 2 adventures, and how the various encounters are organized will make it super-easy for a novice DM to get some experience. Detailed maps show where traps, treasure, and key combat actions will occur… and maps for players can also be printed that show none of these things but provide a basic bird’s-eye view of key areas. A very cool feature. Fellow GeekDad writer, Michael Harrison, reviewed DoD 2, so please check out his thoughts as well here.
You can find more details about Dungeons on Demand 3 here. You can get individual adventures for just $5 each or get all four for $15. The best deal, however, is the $35 Gamemaster backer level that gets you everything (including bonus content) for DoD 1, 2, and 3–that’s 12 adventures, 4 bonus documents, plus whatever else is unlocked while the Kickstarter is active.
As you can see, there’s plenty of help out there for DMs looking for pre-created 5e content. Between Goodman Games (7 books and growing), The Folio (6 modules), and Dungeons on Demand (12 adventures and counting), there is more adventuring than most of us will have time to complete. A good problem to have!